Campo de Fiore Roman pizza in Park Slope
Is it just me or does it seem like brand new haute pizza places are opening on every other block around the city? Or at least on the blocks not already occupied by the latest haute burger joint. The Northern end of Park Slope has seen two high end pizza places open in the last 6 months. The first, Fornino, was really disappointing. The second, Campo de Fiori, is really promising.
For 20 years the space now occupied by CDF used to be my cleaners, a place run by sweet but occasionally clueless Korean Christians. For the last couple of years they were in operation they suddenly started pressing my pants on the seams resulting is balloon leg look that I disliked. I asked them a number of times for regular creases; they’d smile and say yes, but when I’d pick up my pants a few days later we’d be back in balloonland. I had mixed feelings when their landlord raised their rent and forced them to move because I had grown fond of them. On the other hand it forced me to find another cleaners who know how to press pants.
The store front stayed vacant for almost 2 years and then back in July CDF appeared. The early press was intriguing. Unlike almost all of the recent high end pizza places that have opened over the last couple of years this was going to be pizza made by Italians. The pizza pictures also appealed to me. (The first picture below came from the Village Voice. The rest were taken by me.)
Unlike the bread centric pizzas that have gotten so much attention recently these looked like they had the proper blend of crust and topping.
This is Roman pizza, something that’s new to me. From the Village Voice –
"While Neapolitan pizza -- the kind we've seen so much of lately -- is most often round with a bubbly-puffy and soft crust; Roman-style pizza is often oblong or rectangular, and the crust is generally a bit thinner and crisper than Neapolitan. While a Neapolitan pizza will be saggy and juicy in the middle, a piece of Roman-style pizza is usually sturdy enough to be picked up and eaten out of hand."
No woodburning oven here. Not even a gas oven. The oven is electric. I find the idea refreshing. It goes against the current pizza orthodoxy.
I tried to get my girlfriend excited about this place but failed. She had her eyes set on other venues. Luckily CDF sells pizza by the slice during the day. (It’s whole pies only at night.) Last Saturday I was on my own and made a point of stopping by to check the place out.
The space is appealing, with a certain minimalist charm. The staff is even more charming, friendly and eager to please. I was greeted at the door by their hostess, dressed in a nicely tailored pants suit. The effect was pleasant - a shade more formal than I was expecting on Saturday afternoon in Park Slope but I liked it.
For awhile they had a sign out front that mentioned that they sold individual slices during the day. On Saturday the sign board was still outside but it didn’t mention the slices. I asked about them.
“Oh sure. Follow me.”
At first I thought she was going to lead me to a table but she walked around glass a counter displaying various foods. She pointed to a tray with two different types of pizza and invited my to make a choice. The thought occurred to me that it was like picking out a lobster at a fish place. I pointed to the one on the right topped with caramelized onions and then sat down to wait.
I ordered a Peroni to pass the time and scoped out the room. They’re doing good business. Ten tables were occupied and the place was 70% full. You can tell it’s Park Slope. Seven of the tables had kids at them and there were five different strollers of various sizes. (Big, giant, and Hummer.)
Remember the caramelized onion slice I pointed at? They brought me the other one. But the waitress was so sweet I didn’t have the heart to mention it. And a good thing too. It was their standard Margherita slice and it was quite good. The sauce had rich complex flavor and an underlying peppery quality that I liked quite a bit. The cheese didn’t add much flavor but it didn’t get in the way. The crust was crisp without being brittle and complemented the topping rather overshadowed it.
I’m an inveterate salt and hot pepper person. Neither was on the table but they weren’t needed. I had planned to only have one slice but I enjoyed the first so much that I ordered the caramelized onion slice. (I’ve looked at the online menu - the one I ordered wasn’t on it.)
Even better than the first one. The onions added a delicate sweetness that wasn’t overwhelming and the bacon added salty spiciness. This slice may have had some shredded potatoes on top in addition to the onions. Or maybe it didn’t. I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage here. I didn’t order from a printed menu and the name of the slice written on my bill doesn’t match any of the slices listed on Menupages. In any case it was very good.
I might be missing something but as far as I can tell this is pizza that doesn’t taste like anything else being made around here right now. CDF offers various small plates and starters along with cheese and meat plates. Based on the quality of the pizza I’ll bet you could build a very satisfying meal by mixing and matching.
Campo di Fiore
187 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn
(corner of 5th and Sackett)
256 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
We made it back to Campo di Fiore last month after an inexcusably long absence. All the things I liked about it are still in place. The atmosphere is warm and the short menu has plenty of appealing choices.
There’s a short menu of cured meats and cheeses and the pricing is irresistible. A selection of three meats costs $15 and the portion is really generous. We chose speck, mortadella, and bresaola. Together with the crusty Italian bread and rosemary infused olive oil, it made a nice starter.
For mains my GF chose the rigatoni alla carbonara, which was properly al dente and peppery and garnished with pancetta. Rich without being overwhelming.
I had the sausage and mushroom pizza, with mozzarella, pecorino, and peppers. I’ve had this before and really liked it. It’s still very good, a satisfying dish for a cool fall night.
It needed a bit of salt and red pepper to perk it up but that’s a tweak that’s easy to make. I love this crust – it’s light and crispy without being brittle. The pizza is quite filling – I only managed to eat half so it’s easily splitable.
The place was about 80% full on a Friday night but these are the type of steady neighborhood people who’ll keep coming back forever. (CDF is only a few blocks from Al Di La.) It’s the best kind of local place.
Campo de' Fiori
187 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
We had a warm and pleasant dinner here recently on a cold and unpleasant night. The service was itself warm and pleasant, and so was the room.
The chicken liver crostini were two generous toasts spiked with rosemary, really good. My guy ordered bresaola to start but there was a misunderstanding and he was brought the bresaola with parmigiano and arugula salad. While not what he’d wanted, it was good enough not to bother making a correction.
The pizza is good. When I think of Roman-style crust I think of a flatter, crisper crust. This was a little more robust than that but I liked it fine. With a glance at a passing pie we agonized over sharing one or ordering two and as usual gluttony carried the day. The Margherita, san marzano tomato, mozzarella and basil, had arugula over top, a nice combination of flavors. The Funghi E Salsiccia, italian sausage, fior di latte, mushrooms, pecorino cheese, peppers, was quite rich and very satisfying. I think another time we would share a pizza and split a pasta, because we took quite a bit away.
I liked the lighting of the space, the elbow room and the acoustics. Even the windy woman several tables away (and you know who you are), who kept stroking her daughter’s hair and holding forth on everything from Twitter and car alarms to New York City tap water, didn’t bother me. Much. One minor quibble I had was with the bench seat that runs along the wall; comfortable enough but a little higher than the corresponding chairs. I rather had the feeling that I was an adult sitting at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving.
re: Deb Van D
This place strikes just the right note. The total effect is more than the sum of the parts.
For starters, this is pizza made in Brooklyn by actual Italians, not hipster bakers. There was none of that "Behold, my glorious bread!" stuff going on. You had the feeling that they were performing a classic play, not improvising something they thought of last night. In this case the play is Roman Pizza and they know the lines by heart. The wait staff is Italian too. Not a hipster to be seen.
We, and I definitely include myself in this, usually think that Internet coverage (reviews, blogs, food boards, etc.) is essential for a successful restaurant launch. CDF is proof that it isn't. The place was about 90% full on the Friday we went. I had the strong feeling that it was all neighborhood people. Their business has been driven entirely by foot traffic and word of mouth. How refreshing.
Is this place worth a trip? Only if it's less than 20 minutes. But I'm very glad it's near me.